20 April 2007

A canvas splashed with friends...

"A friend may well be reckoned a masterpiece of nature." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was right, of course. He knew what we all know in the deepest parts of our heart to be true. It is, in the end, about friends, isn't it? Of course it is.

My morning started with text messages, voice mails and a stubbornly ringing phone and on the other end of these text messages, voice mails and that stubbornly ringing phone, were my friends. How much I love them. How blessed I am that they refuse to stop leaving voice mails and take the time to text message me and tell me that I am expected to be here or there and that they will come and hunt me down should I fail to show up where my presence is expected. Oh, they can be such a pain in the ass! How fortunate am I that they are just that way.

I have a great family and I've written about them many times and I love my family but with family, well, they're just sort of "stuck" with me and it's my great good fortune that they are but with friends, it's not quite like that. I seriously know in my heart that I have been blessed with some hugely cantankerous, obstinate, mischieviously delicious buddies. Truly, these friends make my life the most fun!

"A gift, two years in the making!"

Yesterday, I had the wonderful pleasure of a visit from my friend from several years back. I hadn't seen Jimi since September 2003. He's kept in touch with me through the years and refused to give up on me. When this brilliant NYU-trained attorney slipped into my life back then, we could never have foreseen the wild twists and turns that were ahead of us, both individually and collectively. But thank God he didn't forsake me when the chips were down and no matter how many times he encountered my voice-mail or e-mails that went unanswered for a time, he hung in there and the bond we forged almost four years ago, has stood the test of time. Though Jimi lives in another part of the state, I've felt his support and affection throughout these past few years and he's easily one of the brightest men I've ever met and he's never failed to give me good advice and counsel, both professionally and on a personal level.

Two years ago, I made a huge announcement. Some people bought gifts. There were frames, more frames, wind chimes, pieces of art and some gift cards. Jimi gave me something that, at the time, I thought was pretty funny and never in a million years did I imagine I'd have the opportunity to take him up on his offer but, as it turns out, he was much wiser and knew that I wasn't making the best decision. I thought he was crazy. As it turns out, I was the one that was behaving crazy. When the time came, I called, he answered and made good on his gift. Thanks Jimi. I promise that should I find myself about to make a similar decision at some point in the future, I will not do so without your prior approval. You have my word.

Jimi popped over yesterday for coffee before attending to a meeting that brought him to our fair city. Last night, after his business was over and my meeting was finished, I picked him up from his hotel for dinner and we had such a great time at Elijah's. It was a celebration of sorts. The waitress who took our photo, and a few of our fellow diners, laughed as we explained what we were celebrating. I mean, it did sound kind of funny, now that I think about it, but to us, it made perfect sense.

We laughed and smiled our way through oysters (his selection, not mine), and fish & chips (mutual). We had the best time and hopefully he'll be back next week for a more serious meeting and I will get to play tour guide again. After I dropped him back off at his hotel last night I thought to myself how lucky I was to have these angels in my life.

We couldn't help but muse about where life had taken us in the past four years. So many things had landed us places we never could have foreseen back in September 2003, and I think we both felt darn lucky to have survived ourselves. More than that, I sat there and felt gratitude that our friendship had survived. What's interesting, is that you never know how pivotal a few "chance" meetings in your life can be. You never know when those paths will criss-cross and and where a few hair-pin turns might take you and then one day, there you are and sometimes, it's fascinating to go back and connect those seemingly unrelated dots. We connected dots last night over seafood, dining in view of the twinkling lights of the Cape Fear River, in downtown Wilmington, less than a block from where we first met a few years ago. There we were, coming around again and smiling on top of it. Thank you for a lovely evening, Jimi, and a most fortuitous gift.

This morning, I awoke to a text-message and a sweet and funny E-mail. Sharon texted me to call her. NOW!!!! The first e-mail I opened up was from our other partner-in-crime, Mary Ann, who told me I was having lunch with them downtown and that I'd better be there. Again, courtesy of two angels who must sometimes feel as if they have more contact from my voice-mail than with me but who never, ever give up on me. Thank God for them both.

I walked into the Courthouse Cafe and the warm embrace of Mary Ann who, though outwardly a sporting dark hair, Sharon and I suspect she has blond roots. She just likes to give off the appearance of being a savvy brunette. We know better though, don't we Sharon?

It was just like old times! Only better!!!!!!

Clearly, we had the best seats in the house and how great it was to see Matt and his wonderful staff!

These two women have been so incredible to me for coming up on seven years. My gosh, I think I must practically be a native and I swear, they are my anchors. They have both walked beside me in good times and challenging ones and I'm just so very honored to love them and honored to be loved by them. They remind me how rich I am and I smile every single time I think of them, which is often. It's uncanny to me how friends seem to know when you need to hear from them. I have come to believe that the magic of such relationships, the intrinsic intermingling of personalities - is one of the finest intangible coping devices from a most benevolent Creator and one of the most vivid expressions of that Creator's love for each of us. When I look at Sharon and Mary Ann, I know God loves me because He sends his best angels to light my path. These two qualify as spotlights with exquisite candlepower.

After a wonderful lunch, I popped over to check in on my compadre Vanessa and ran right into another one of my best buddies - Kathleen. As it turns out, Kathleen and her husband Richard are celebrating their 22nd wedding anniversary! Cheers! Kathleen and I did the only thing that made any sense in the middle of the day - we headed for Port City Java and celebrated with highly caffeinated beverages! It would have been wrong not to!

After a nice visit with Kathleen, I ran into yet another special lady who has grown to mean a great deal to me and always gives me wise advice. I had the wonderful chance to chat with Susan who had sailed in from Bald Head Island for the afternoon and her timing was perfect! I love this beautiful lady. When we first met last fall, I was drawn to her immediately and today reconfirmed for me why. She has a radiant charm that is infectious. Time spent in her company is a pleasure. We made plans to get together soon.

And then there is my Vanessa. Never a dull moment with this woman! Rare is the day that goes by without contact between us and some days, I'm quite sure we just communicate telepathically. I find that both scary and comforting but mostly comforting. :-) How dull my life would be without Miss Vanessa to stir it up. Hey, what can I say? She's family.

And last but not least, Billie, my special friend of almost nine years, is flying in next month to take Katie and me on a special adventure.

We're both excited! All of this job-hunting can be just grueling and exhausting, so Billie has invited the Parker women on a retreat and we couldn't be more thrilled - we're headed to the Outer Banks for a few days and not a minute too soon!

Now, you have to understand, Billie has an ocean front place just outside of Tampa so you would think going to the beach wouldn't be that big of a deal for him which, of course, raises some questions. Billie can walk right outside his door and voila, he's at the beach!

But Billie has never been to the Outer Banks. He rented a cool beach house near Rodanthe and was kind enough to decide that Katie and I need to hang out with him. So of course, we had to say yes! I've been after him for years to visit the Outer Banks and he decided it was time.

Billie will be flying into Wilmington on 5/18, Katie will be taking Amtrak from Penn Station a couple of days before that and once everyone is assembled in Wilmington, we'll be heading for Rodanthe on 5/19 with kites, fishing poles and the DVD "Tombstone" which is a Parker tradition on the Outer Banks. Fun times!!!!!! Hopefully Justin and Stephanie will be joining us for a few days, too.

Personally, I think Billie is basically going to all this trouble just to have an invitation to one of my Mom's home-cooked dinners but, just to make it look good, he's taking us on a holiday. Geez, some bachelors will do anything for a decent home-cooked meal! He loves my Mom's cooking and she loves cooking for him so it all works out. Of course, once we get him out of Wilmington, Katie and I plan to clean his clock at Scrabble, Gin-Rummy and I'm sure we'll both out-fish the poor guy, but he'll smile and swear he's enjoying it.

Then I question, should I really be going on a vacation when I'm not actually working right now? Doesn't that seem a bit...silly? "No, no, no!", according to Billie and my daughter Katie. They feel that a few days out of town, focusing on mental pursuits such as scrabble and cards, and catching the occasional fish in the surf, will renew my mental resources and can only result in heightened creativity.

I was skeptical. I talked to another good friend who isn't involved in this vacation, and asked her what she thought and I even posed my question in way that would make her feel safe to criticize such a plan and, it should be noted, this is one of my more grounded, sensible, hard-working friends. Her response genuinely caught me off-guard: "I think it's a great idea! In fact, if you find a job before your planned vacation, just tell them you already have that week tied up and you will still need to take that week off. I definitely think you should go.". I reminded her that it felt almost indulgent to think of going to the beach while I am searching for a job. Sally didn't skip a beat and again, reiterated that it was a very good idea. I didn't see THAT coming! She's usually so practical.

So what can I tell you? I guess the consensus is that I need to get out of town post-haste! Everyone seems to have abandoned their common sense or, well, maybe they just want me out of Wilmington for a week? My advisers seem to overwhelmingly feel I need to get out of Dodge. How can I argue with all that?

So, the job hunt STILL continues, but I'm sure something will work out in the next few weeks. I've come to realize the worrying doesn't change a thing and honestly, I've been enjoying life so much lately I've been too busy to become panicked. It is spring and that seems reason enough to celebrate. For now, I am enjoying many of those "masterpieces of nature" that Emerson so eloquently described as friends. Days disguised as daisies...